• Jaci Presley

From Animal Portraits to Tributes - Indigenous Peoples


I moved from simply painting animals as they are to adding clothes or posing them in situations. It's just more fun. I want my art to be fun as much as I want it to speak to a situation (e.g. endangered species, species most of us don't even know exist, or biodiversity).

I still need to go back and explore this theme: animals dressed in the traditional outfits of the indigenous people who inhabit the same geographical area. They not only share geography, but they often face the same survival challenges. These are my first "Tributes" and they are to some of the First Nations of South America.

My first idea came from a very strange anteater that lives in Central and South America: the Tamandua. There are two species, the Northern and the Southern. The Northern can be found in Mexico, Columbia, and even in the Andes which is where I pictured my anteater growing up. I dressed her in traditional Andean attire, from the montera (hat) to the Lliclla (scarf) tied around her neck.

She needed to bring awareness to us about the Andean culture and the beautiful colors, but also needed to have a little personality. As I sketched and painted, it seemed to me that she was just a normal teenage girl who only wants to grow into her nose.

"Teenage Tamn Dua Only Wishes She Would Grow Into Her Nose."

gouache on 2.5x3.5" canvas


I revisited the theme one more time with a mara, which is a large hare-like rodent of the Patagonia region of Argentina and Chilé. They are not rabbits, but are related to the cavy.

i dressed my heroine as a wise woman (shaman) of the Mapuche people. She has all the traditional silver discs intricately woven together (the trapelacucha), as well as her black shawl and the bright red and blue ribbon streamers coming off her headpiece that represent a rainbow.

Mara Mapuche didn't dome out quite as I had hoped - the idea was really too great to quantify in a tiny portrait. Still, she has the proud bearing of a proud woman of the Mapuche tribe.

And that brings me to the *why* I even bothered.

I fell in love with the Mapuche, gentle guardians of the earth and their way of life.

The Mapuche claim traditional and sacred rights to tracts of land in Chile and the Chilean government disagrees.There have been a series of violent confrontations between the Mapuche and other residents - especially large logging and farming companies. This is an ongoing and conflict and still very much a current event as modernization and colonization threaten to destroy an ancient way of life.

"Mara Mapuche, A Wise Mara of Argentina and Chile" represents a struggle we don't hear about often enough, one between cultures, old wisdom, and the greed of corporations.

(I don't pretend to know the entire side of either side of the story.)

acrylic on 4x4" canvas



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